In the beginning of March and only one month ahead of the first World Cup in South Africa, Brendan Fairclough and his crew took the opportunity to escape the cold, wet weather in Europe – and go to… Europe.
The small Island of Madeira is part of Portugal which makes the traveling easy and affordable. Our UK / German travel companions included World Cup DH racer Brendan Fairclough, his brother Christian, DMR`s director of good times Olly Wilkins and Schwalbe tire-guy Michael Kull plus the other #S4P-crew member Olly Medcalf and David Valler.
Our contact on the island was Freeride Madeira, a local bike holiday company and host for our trip. They organized some great accommodation close to Funcal, only 15 minutes away from the airport. Talking of the airport, Madaira has one of the scariest entry flight paths in the world but you get a really good idea of how this Island looks like. A tropical Island, created over millions of years from volcanos and it has a breath-taking coastline. This is a perfect place for an extended weekend trip as well as a multiple weeks adventure.
We`ve put our full trust in John Fernandes, our guide for the trip. Even though he is an native Maderian, John speaks perfect English and surprised us all with his skills on the bike. He knows all the trails and takes great care of them along with the other guys of Freeride Madeira and hell yeah, they do a really good job! It was just the perfect time and place for them to start their business here last year ago. A company made out of their passion for mountainbiking – follow your dreams!
In just four days we rode all four sides of the islands. We rode loamy trails in the indigenous subtropical forest, fast dusty trails with man build jumps, smooth berms and steep and of course – technical trails. A complete variety of different riding you would probably not find anywhere else in the world, at least nowhere you can go to as quick for a long weekend from almost everywhere in Europe. The landscape is stunning and makes you feel like you are riding your bike in Jurassic Park, luckily without Dinosaurs!
For this trip, we used our trail bikes, Brendan brought his Scott Genius LT that he wanted to spend as much time as possible on before pinning this sub 13kg weapon in Pietermaritzburg at the first World Cup. It turned out, a 150mm trial bike is just perfect for this place. We got shuttled up all the time, but here and there you appreciate the playful feeling of a trail bike and the low weight on the short uphills or transfers. In general the trails could be the perfect definition for “Enduro“ as you can pedal up fairly easily, but we used the shuttle in order to get in as much descending we could out of our short trip.
The highest trails start on the very top of Madeira at 1862m and lead you right to the beach, followed by some Poncha, the local drink of Madeira which tastes fruity but be warned, this stuff has the potential and alcohol strength to seriously knock you out after a long day of riding. Although it was not the drink, we just could not get the smiles off our faces after the full day of amazing trails!
After riding, what could be better than a great dinner with the boys? Madeira has it`s all, day and nightlife! In it’s capital Funchal you will find many restaurants where you can sit outside in the March evening due to the pleasant and consistent climate of Madeira. You’ll find plenty of tasty fish knowing it’s fresh, but our favorite dinner was the “steak on the stone“ you fry by yourself on a hot stone and it comes (like everything here) with a lot of garlic. If you have still want to keep going after all this then Funchal is full of bars with friendly locals.
We decided to go for a boatrip on the day of our departure instead of mountain biking which was a tough decision but probably the more healthy one. John arranged a trip with a boat and we could even say hello to some Dolphins. What a great end for such a trip.
What a trip, we would highly recommend Madeira to everybody looking for a easy-access location for some riding in relatively warm conditions. We have to go back to discover all the trails we did not get chance to ride. It does not matter if you are downhill World Cup rider or weekend warrior, Madeira offers it all, and the guys at Freeride Madeira can take you to trails that will suit your riding skills and preferences. Thanks to John and all the great people we met for this stunning trip.
For more information, check: www.freeridemadeira.com